Invariably controversial, but for me a fascinating conversation partner, David Tacey has recently had published a new book. Published in the USA it’s titled: Religion as Metaphor: Beyond Literal Belief (Hardcover – April 20, 2015). In Australia it has been published under the title: Beyond Literal Belief: Religion as Metaphor (promotional brochure – PDF here)
“Biblical stories”, Tacey says, “are metaphorical. They may have been accepted as factual hundreds of years ago, but today they cannot be taken literally.” The recoil for many revolves around the question of “believing”; on the need for literal belief; on the need for literal belief as a badge for belonging. As many of us appreciate, the Bible comprises many different types of literature, and as a consequence requires are wide range of approaches when reading and interpreting. This range is not always in evidence, both in interpretation and application.
Tacey argues that biblical language should not exclusively be read as history, and it was never intended as literal description. Yes, some Biblical texts have spiritual / psychological meaning, and in some cases, he argues they have historical meaning and significance too.
His target is the kind of literalism that often abounds in some circles, in some ways of being church and Christian.
Religion as Metaphor argues that despite what tradition tells us, if we “believe” religious language, we miss religion’s spiritual or deeper meaning and significance.
Tacey argues that religious language was not designed to be historical reporting, but rather to resonate in the soul and direct us toward transcendent realities. Its impact was intended to be closer to poetry than theology. The book uses specific examples to make its case: Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the Kingdom of God, the Apocalypse, Satan, and the Resurrection.
Tacey shows that, with the aid of contemporary thought and depth psychology, we can re-read religious stories as metaphors of the spirit and the interior life. Moving beyond literal thinking will save religion from itself.”
Tacey covered some of this material when he was in New Zealand delivering the John Main Lectures in January this year.
Most recently, he appeared on ABC radio show The Spirit of Things. It aired on Sunday 31st May 2015 and can be found as a downloable podcast here. You’ll also find a 2012 talk (the text) on many of the themes Tacey has covered in his book attached as a PDF to the bottom of this post.
“Prolific writer on spirituality, David Tacey says we shouldn't, and furthermore it undermines faith.
In his new book, Beyond Literal Belief, Tacey also takes to task the scientifically minded and self-styled 'progressives' who dismiss the Bible as 'mere myth'.
David talks to The Spirit of Things’ Rachael Kohn about why the metaphorical meaning of religious texts is crucial to faith.”